So much for four in a row. The Huskies couldn’t get one. Now they’re done.
Four days after beating the Wildcats in Tucson, Washington was a horrendous 3-for-23 beyond the arc and crashed out of the Pac-12 Conference men’s basketball tourney in Las Vegas Wednesday afternoon with a 77-70 loss to Arizona. The defeat almost certainly ends their season, unless the NIT field is even worse off than the basketball world already knows.
After winning three of their final four regular season games, the Huskies (15-17) tried to talk themselves into thinking they were capable of running the table from the tourney’s 12th seed for the automatic berth in the NCAA tourney. Hah.
The Huskies starters missed 11 of 12 threes, and as a team committed 19 turnovers to put the lie to the late-season revival.
Don’t blame Isaiah Stewart. The precocious freshman had a career-high 29 points (and the lone trey by a starter) and 12 rebounds, helping get UW to within five in the final minute. But fifth-seeded Arizona (21-11) had plenty of cushion, thanks in part to a 6½-minute run in the first half when they held UW without a field goal.
The Huskies, picked third in the Pac-12 preseason poll, got off to a 10-2 start, then lost point guard Quade Green to academic ineligibility. They fell apart, until sweeping the Arizona schools on the road, including a 69-63 Saturday at McHale Center.
Coach Mike Hopkins, conference coach of the year his first two seasons at UW, changed lineups and strategies, to no avail, finishing last in a mediocre league. He ended up benching freshman Jaden McDaniels, who Wednesday had 10 points on 3-of-9 shooting and made four turnovers before fouling out after 30 minutes.
McDaniels and Stewart have been assumed eager to declare for the NBA draft, although anything beyond the next hour is suddenly a profound mystery in American sports.